Monday, June 17, 2024

RIP Roscoe: Death of a True Believer

By Michael Corcoran

It’s fashionable to bitch about newcomers in Austin, even though we all came from somewhere else. But some transplants are more like reinforcements, letting us know through their unbridled enthusiasm that we live in a special place.

Ross Shoemaker, who everyone here called Roscoe, came down with the great Oklahoma migration of the ‘80s. At first he was known as “the guy who recorded The Shit Hits the Fans,” the legendarily awful/perfect, drunken Replacements set at the Bowery, where he worked in Oklahoma City. God, how Roscoe loved the ‘Mats! But after you ran into him a few times and hung out at a couple 3 a.m. living room parties, you knew him as the guy who loved ALL his music deeply and sincerely. He was the pure fan, not a snob. I would tell him the Replacements were way overrated and he would laugh and rattle off 26 song titles that told me it didn’t matter what I thought.

Roscoe, who got jobs at Waterloo Records and Liberty Lunch so he could be around music full time, died last night in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. He’d moved back to his home state at least 20 years ago. Got married, had a daughter, stayed in touch. At about 9 p.m. Wednesday, Ross was driving his Ford Focus when a Cadillac Escalade crossed into his lane and hit him head on. Cause of the accident is being investigated.

The word spread through Facebook Thursday morning like a Roscoe whoop at a True Believers show. The first things folks who knew him mentioned was that he was a great friend of music and a devoted father to teen-aged daughter Sadie. To me he represented Austin in the ‘80s, when you toyed with excesses daily because that party was too good to end. All the bands we were getting tired of — Doctors’ Mob, Wild Seeds, True Believers, Poison 13, etc. — almost became new again in Roscoe’s pure and devout worship. “His love of music was contagious,” Max Crawford of Poi Dog Pondering posted on Facebook. Words that should be engraved somewhere meaningful.

Following Ross on Facebook was a human roller coaster ride. His bad days were painful, especially after he lost his job a couple years ago, but then he’d see a great band or run into an old friend and it would be the Roscoe of old. “Awesome” was his favorite word and it meant something when he said it.

I enjoyed a perfect day with Roscoe in June 2014 when I was sent to Tulsa for a story about the lawyer who represented the wife in a divorce that was settled for $1 billion. I couldn’t wait for the interview to be over because I was meeting Ross for lunch at Goldie’s, a hamburger joint recommended by former Tulsa musician Ron Flynt. We talked about a lot of things, but mostly about the highs and lows of being a single parent. We both married dumb, but conceived wisely. Roscoe’s ex was a newlywed or about to be, so she was always calling him to modify the custody situation, he said. “I always say ‘sure,’” Roscoe told me. “I’ll take every minute I can get with my daughter.” We had a lot in common, but not all of it good. I think Roscoe was 9 months sober at the time and went to meetings.

The best part of the day was when Roscoe proudly showed me around Tulsa, with its rich musical history. We went inside the famous Cain’s Ballroom, which would probably be a CVS right now if it was located in Austin, then drove to Leon Russell’s old church studio where so much great Leon, Tom Petty, Freddie King and J.J. Cale stuff was recorded. He took me to the Woody Guthrie Museum, which is worth a long drive in itself, then showed me Guthrie Green, a fantastic free live music venue bankrolled by a billionaire music lover. He showed me the small club where Alejandro Escovedo had played just a few days earlier and where Roscoe got to catch up with his old friend. He moved away, but never really left. Last stop was the intersection of Greenwood, Archer and Pine Streets, from where Tulsa’s GAP Band got their name. It was a great day to talk about the music we love, where some of it was made.

About two weeks ago, Roscoe proudly posted the list of Rolling Stone magazine’s “50 Greatest Live Records of All Time,” which ranked The Shit at No. 50. M’man produced one of the 50 greatest live records of all time! Then gave the tape to the band because that’s the kind of fan, the kind of man, he was.

If you can live a life like Ross Shoemaker did, so full of love and enthusiasm, you will have a great one. It will be a real life of ups and downs, deep sorrows and bursts of euphoria. A life that touches many.

“Alex Chilton” is a song about being a fan. I’m playing it for Roscoe now and it’s never sounded sadder. This is gonna take some time.

16 thoughts on “RIP Roscoe: Death of a True Believer

  1. I can’t thank you enough for this write up. My Uncle was a devoted Father, so we all ask for prayers for his young daughter. It’s uplifting to see so many positive posts on social media, write ups like this and countless other comments about him being a great Dad and always maintaining his incredible love for music. Thank you for putting this together…it means a lot.

  2. I agree with Phillip. Ross was a part of our family. Like an “awesome” uncle to my daughters – especially our teenage girls who’ve played with his daughter since they were wee ones… Thanks for the writeup. Love seeing all the perspectives of those who knew and loved this wildly energetic and life-loving rocker. 🙂 His daughter will have many looking out for her.

  3. A BEAUTIFUL writeup and tribute to a good friend. He will be sorely missed.

  4. I’m so bummed. The plimsoles show at the Bowery will be forever engrained in my memory and more so talking me into going to see The Fortune Tellers and True Belivers.
    I’d love to drink a beer with you right now or even sit still for two hours like you do. Fuck, I’m bummed out!

  5. Wow… Roscoe was a close friend of mine for the past 16 years! This is an amazing write up on him! You did great and I know his family will be so grateful… Thank You!

  6. Thank you so much… he would love this but wouldn’t gloat. Just a humble little grin. Ross has been a huge supporter throughout the Tulsa music scene for a couple of years, and it’s not going to be the same without him.

  7. i played a gig in OK city and we stayed at roscoe’s. he passed out on the porch of his house, so in the morning we painted his finger nails just in time for the post man to bring him his mail, waking him up. they both looked at the nails and then at each other, it was priceless. the shitty bands i played in were not shitty to roscoe and he let me know. every town needed a roscoe and everyone needs a roscoe in their life. this news is bittersweet as although i barely knew him, he was legendary in my circles and him dying is very sad. RIP buddy.

  8. I was a Bowery / Rosco disciple. That guy turned me and many other OKC people onto the coolest music we’d never heard before. His enthusiasm was contagious when he loved something , and if he didn’t care for a band / artist that you personally liked ( Sparks comes to mind here ) he could actually make you question your devotion…..he was that passionate about music. As a club DJ he was second to none. He made Okla. City , that sleepy little town at the time , one of the hippest places ( music wise ) in the United States. During that time I traveled a bit and even the major metropolitan cities weren’t playing stuff half as cool / obscure as our man Rosco. Ground Zero in Dallas was like some place the Sex and The City chicks would hang out at compared to Rosco and The Bowery. He loved Sadie something fierce and even though I could not claim to be a real “friend” of his…I think I can say that his daughter probably saved his life. She made him want to give up the things that were hurting him. It sucks to think that a freak auto accident took him from us when he had been trying to be good for so long. Rest In Peace Rosco……you deserve it after all you’ve been through…….Jerry Murphy OKC

  9. Blessed to have been Roscoe’s roommate in college. He introduced me to music I would have never listened/danced to/loved… His heart was as big as his passion for good jams. Miller Brewing had the good foresight to make him campus representative…. probably didn’t help his grades but man did we have fun! He lived it to the fullest… love you Roscoe/Ross/Coney. The man was too large for just one name….

  10. I only hope that when I depart this earth I will leave half as many friends behind.

  11. Your words have captured the true essence of such a Humble Soul. He spoke often of his Austin Music Memories and your friendship. One of his many talents was to insure that Tulsa Music Talents were showcased and he took personal responsibility to keep 918 Great. All this along with being a loving father and friend to so many. Thanks from Roscoe’s Fans

  12. He and I were just discussing the Mats ‘Beer for Breakfast’ last week. He had a big heart and great stories. Man, this world deals shitty hands sometimes. He died, though, sober and loved.

  13. Thank you so much for this beautiful portrait of our dear friend Ross. I, along with so many others, will miss him and remember him with love and a smile on our faces thinking of the joy he brought into our lives. May you be in bliss forevermore, Ross. ♡♡♡

  14. Michael, good piece about a good man that I did not know. Like Rosco, I love all music, especially the replacements but all music really. One of our own will be missed.

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